LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette football team has been waiting for the kind of moment that came in the fourth quarter against ULM Saturday, when Jamal Robinson hauled in a 64-yard go-ahead touchdown.
Heck, the Cajuns have been waiting for more than a year, since Robinson’s 2014 campaign was cut short after just four games. But this play in particular, the vertical route that ended with Robinson in the end zone, may finally signal that Robinson is back to being himself.
Coach Mark Hudspeth said ULM was playing coverage that he calls “flat-footing,” in which the defensive back sits into his coverage and waits for routes to break 10 yards deep. The Warhawks were able to do that because the Cajuns rarely took a shot downfield.
Robinson pleaded his case with receivers coach Jorge Munoz to get a deep ball. Munoz relayed the message coaches agreed that it was time.
“We were probably way past due to try to get one over the top,” Hudspeth said. “Their corner probably wasn’t expecting that because we ain’t tried it the whole game — and sure enough, Jamal runs right past him and gets great separation. (Quarterback Brooks Haack) somehow shovels it out there and put it right on the money, it was a strike.”
It’s been a bit of a struggle for Robinson to find traction in the passing game this season. Saturday was the first time he topped 70 receiving yards on the year, and he hasn’t been much of a factor in the vertical passing game.
But lately he’s been coming on. He’s caught three touchdowns in his last three games, including the go-ahead scores in wins against Texas State and ULM. In those two wins, Robinson hauled in eight passes for 159 yards.
“I feel like he came out initially trying to overwork himself,” quarterback Jalen Nixon said. “He was a little rusty first getting out on the field, and now as the season progressed, he’s getting used to playing football again. It’s coming more natural rather than him trying to force things to happen.”
While Hudspeth acknowledged that Robinson hasn’t capitalized on some opportunities, he also said the team will continue to search for ways to get him isolated in man-on-man coverage so he can showcase his game-breaking ability.
That ability wasn’t always evident early, but the Cajuns might be just scratching the surface of something they’ve been waiting on for a while.
“He’s a big-play wide receiver,” Haack said. “It’s good to see the past couple weeks he has really turned it up. That’s the way he’s been practicing. I think he realizes that his time is getting shorter and he needs to make the most of his opportunities as he can.”
With a visit on tap against a high-powered Georgia State offense, it appears the Cajuns defensive unit will be healthier than it has been in weeks.
Hudspeth said Jevante Watson, who left the ULM game in the first quarter with an ankle injury, and Tre’maine Lightfoot should be ready to go this weekend.
“We think (Watson) will be fine,” Hudspeth said. “We think he’ll be available for this week, and he needs to be, because we’re going to need all hands on deck for as many wideouts as they’re going to have on the field.”
Lightfoot has missed the past three games. He tallied a career-high eight tackles against Louisiana Tech in his last action, but will probably return to the field in a reserve role after the phenomenal game Dominique Tovell turned in against ULM.
“But we’re going to need some depth in this game,” Hudspeth said. “As much as we’re going to be running, we’re going to definitely need him. That’ll be a big plus having him back.”